Derrik Kassebaum is no stranger to change. The son of a local barber from High Ridge, Missouri, a small town where “everyone knew the family,” Derrik spent his childhood exploring the outdoors with his five siblings. Boyish enthusiasm lent itself well to rural life, as Derrik fished, rode horses, and played in the nearby rivers. Now he’s a prospering businessman with three companies, numerous board of director seats, and a non-profit to his name. He and his wife of twenty-five years, Laura, also assist ministries throughout the world and are proud parents to two successful daughters.
It was after his second stroke at age 41 that Derrik realized God was calling him toward a new path. This wasn’t the first time Derrik’s life had pivoted unexpectedly, but it was still an undeniably defining moment. In the aftermath, he began wondering why he adapted to change so well. Where had he learned to let go of fear in order to grow? What new direction was he facing?
“I always say life is a journey, not a destination, and I hadn’t arrived yet,” Derrik says.
It was his friend Dr. Tom Hill who first raised the idea of writing a book – and continued to ask every time they met.
“When are you going to write your book? When are you going to tell your story?”
Derrik didn’t see the point, arguing that the world didn’t need yet another book. In Tom’s own words, “But the world doesn’t have your story.”
Accepting the Call to Create
For Derrik, this was intimidating. He graduated high school with a GPA of 2.3, and English was his least favorite subject. But in June of 2020, he spent three days in solitude searching for clarity. He prayed often, read almost as much, and ultimately arrived at the same conclusion as his friend: despite Derrik’s knee-jerk reservations, God was leading him to write a nonfiction book. Helping others prosper through words was his new purpose.
As fate would have it, it was Tom who introduced Derrik to Nancy Erickson, The Book Professor®, and their now mutual acquaintance. Once he knew the path forward, Derrik asked Nancy if she could help.
Of course, Nancy said yes.
Like any step into the unknown, Derrik couldn’t shake his initial hesitation. “I type with four fingers, two on each hand,” he chuckles. Decades of entrepreneurial experience certainly gave him invaluable resources, but how to craft a worthy book wasn’t one of them.
The Book Professor® wasn’t concerned.
After solidifying his vision (and Derrik wondering if could instead use a ghostwriter), Nancy reassured him that no one could narrate his story more authentically or powerfully than himself. As they defined each chapter according to the BookMAP process, it was Nancy’s unfailing encouragement that nudged open the door hiding Derrik’s creativity. The more they plotted a course toward his ultimate theme and the more time Derrik spent in quiet contemplation, the more he flourished. He realized he was indeed capable of bringing the stories in his mind to life.
Once he believed in himself, the door was wide open. The words could flow.
In fact, the last chapter Derrik wrote was unplanned. He knew it was nonetheless essential to his manuscript, and Nancy agreed. After an initial draft, she identified an area where Derrik hadn’t detailed everything he needed to say. Very kindly, Nancy said if he didn’t share all he needed to, he shouldn’t write the book at all.
She was right. That push was necessary for Derrik to transform his work from “just a good story on his shelf” to something truly meaningful. It took a combination of her expert guidance and Derrik acknowledging his fear as a personal and creative barrier. Once again, he needed to let go to grow.
Together, they methodically fine-tuned the addition until Derrik got it just right. The challenge, and the risk of something new, proved well worth it.
Staying True to You
Although The Book Professor® programs operate according to a schedule, Derrik took longer to complete his manuscript than he anticipated. His authorial journey spanned two years from introduction to polishing, and that was okay.
“It was me, definitely not Nancy,” he says.
The BookMAP system helped Derrik plan his manuscript in full before he even contemplated a rough draft, but there were times he didn’t achieve the consistent goals Nancy set. She ensured they always met their standing appointments, but there wasn’t judgment over missed deadlines – just problem solving.
Not all authors operate the same. A book forced into a tidy schedule isn’t a book true to its creator. Realizing that Derrik’s prose needed more time to breathe, The Book Professor® granted him the time he needed. “Pick one of your book maps and start writing,” she told him, so Derrik submitted chapters out of publishing order. He followed where his mind led, and every chapter emerged exactly as planned.
Ultimately, Nancy trusted his instincts and allowed him to discover the writing method and timeline that best suited him. It was the perfect mix of accountability, flexibility, and unerring support.
A Family Legacy
By authoring a book, Derrik follows a familial legacy of risk-taking innovators. Whether it was breaking from tradition to join a non-denominational church or transforming a beauty supply distribution chain into a pet shampoo company, Derrik’s parents modeled an authentic example of courage. When change knocked at their doors, they listened, even stepping away from the most fundamental securities at times – their income and housing. The devastation left by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a massive fork in the road for their journey, as helping those affected by the damage inspired them to join the missionary field. Over the decades they built a ministry of countless churches in Guatemala while Derrik and his siblings simultaneously inherited the Cosmos Corporation and developed it into the quality-driven pet wellness line it is today.
Those childhood days in rural Missouri taught him the value of following unforeseen paths. His parents weren’t fearless; they worked through the reservations barricading them from their purpose. To prosper in the next stage of life – to even see it – one must learn to not only let go well but live well.
Serving through Change
“[Would] my stories actually be remembered?”
That was something Derrik wondered even before starting his one-on-one work with Nancy.
Much like his entrepreneur-turned-missionary parents, Derrik spent his professional life in one form or another of service. He fostered trust with pet owners for decades while balancing the efforts of Gifts of Love International, a non-profit overseeing dozens of international churches and helping hundreds of children in need. Of the many boards he served on, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation was a standout for providing resources to patients and families facing overwhelming medical debt.
Ministering to others is the calling God placed on Derrik’s heart. It was the reason he chose to write Live and Let Go: Releasing Your Hold to Pursue God’s Purpose. He knows intimately the reasons why people hesitate to move forward, whether it’s fear, a lack of resources, or simply having different plans for their life. Derrik believes if he can navigate a lifetime of change by having the courage to let go of everything that’s holding him back, so can others. If even one person remembers his story enough to find peace, then he succeeded in life.
“I know at the end after you walk through the process [of letting go], you’ll be so excited,” he shares.
A Book and its Cover
When the finished book arrived at his door, Derrik’s wife Laura couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. “Hold it up and let’s take a picture!” she said.
Getting to that point had been nerve-wracking for Derrik. Even when Nancy sent her final edits to the publisher, Derrik’s mind didn’t rest: he needed to understand the cover creation process. Would it interest people? Would it represent the heart he’d poured into the bound pages?
He needn’t have worried. Working with the concept artist was fast, simple, and invigorating. After a 30-minute phone call, within 2-3 days he received several options. Together they combined ideas and brainstormed alterations, and all the design renderings took a maximum of a week. Once he collaborated with another specialized artist who could “go into my brain” and bring his vision to life, his anxiety vanished. Creatives just as passionate about the product as he was helped him every step of the way.
Live and Let Go: Releasing Your Hold to Pursue God’s Purpose releases soon, and to say Derrik’s “pretty excited” is an understatement. Not only is he sharing the news, but he’s already receiving feedback from people eager to read his book.
Journey’s End and New Beginnings
Reflecting on his first book, Derrik knows that while it may be a journey’s conclusion for him, it can signal the start of someone else’s. Although he acknowledges self-publishing is an option, for anyone interested in writing? They need to use The Book Professor®.
The detailed, thoughtful process makes everything from pre-planning to prose as easy as can be. And if someone has already self-published? He still advises contacting Nancy.
“I strongly suggest that a person try it this way with her,” says Derrik. In The Book Professor®’s hands, a person will find themselves with a much stronger, more resonant story. Derrik’s father can testify to that fact: years ago, he wrote half of a book alone and the second part in collaboration with a coach. The latter experience he praised as “much more peaceful.”
Is there a story inside you? Can you help others by sharing it? Reach out to The Book Professor® today and we’ll find the right program for you.